Manchester United spent a British record 59.7 million pounds ($99 million) to sign Argentina winger Angel di Maria hours before the three-time European champion was handed a 4-0 drubbing in the League Cup by Milton Keynes Dons of England’s third tier.
United is adding to its squad under new coach Louis van Gaal after finishing seventh of 20 teams last season, its worst Premier League performance. Di Maria signed a five-year contract, a statement on United’s website said yesterday.
Playing in the second round of the League Cup for the first time in 19 years, record 20-time English league champion United conceded three second-half goals against the Milton Keynes team that was founded 10 years ago.
Van Gaal will likely be relieved at the arrival from Real Madrid of Di Maria as he tries to overcome a sluggish start to his tenure at United.
Before last night’s elimination from England’s second-tier cup competition, United lost its opening game in the Premier League 2-1 at home to Swansea and was held to a 1-1 draw at Sunderland three days ago.
The fee United will pay to Madrid for Di Maria is the highest by a U.K. club for a player, eclipsing the 50 million pounds ($83 million) Liverpool received from Chelsea for striker Fernando Torres in 2011.
“He is a tremendously fast and incisive left-footed player who puts fear into the most accomplished defense,” Van Gaal said of Di Maria. “His dribbling skills and his ability to take on and beat opponents are a joy to watch. He is an excellent addition to the team.”
The final amount United pays Madrid could rise to as much as 90 million euros ($119 million) on performance variables, including whether United reaches next season’s Champions League, a person familiar with the agreement said.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Spain and there were a lot of clubs interested in me, but United is the only club that I would have left Real Madrid for,” Di Maria said in United’s statement.
Di Maria, 26, had 17 goal assists in Spain’s La Liga last season, four more than any other player in the top division in England, Spain, Italy, Germany or France, according to Bloomberg Sports data. In the season before last, he scored seven goals and had six assists in the domestic league.
“Angel is a world-class midfielder but, most importantly, he is a team player,” Van Gaal said. “There is no doubting his immense natural talent.”
Since last season, United also signed fullback Luke Shaw, center back Marcos Rojo and midfielder Ander Herrera for a combined 82 million pounds, according to transfermarkt.com, which tracks player trading.
United’s league slump last season means the team failed to make the Champions League, the elite competition from which it earned 44.8 million euros last season.
Even so, it has continued to sign endorsement contracts, agreeing July 14 to a 10-year sponsorship deal with Adidas AG for at least 750 million pounds. The contract starts in a year’s time at the end of United’s current one with Nike Inc.